BRIEF BLOG INTRO:
I'm a singer/songwriter and actor from Texas "Living in the Bonus Round" in New York City. That is my way of describing how I feel having cheated death. In a game show, the Bonus Round is where time speeds up and the prizes are better. Seeing your death changes you. Now, I'm consuming life as quickly and as fully as I can, while still taking time to breathe and appreciate every single day as an utter miracle. Last year, I turned 60 and I had a set of goals, all of which came true, including composing -- and performing in -- a Mass, recording a solo album with a few friends and self-released it (selling tens of copies), headlined at a major night club in New York City to two full houses and just played the lead role in the reading play not written by myself. I update a few times a month these days, and I don't spam. So it's easier to keep up with me by following by Email. When this blog began, it was to track my death. I'm told it was the first AIDS blog. You can start at the gruesome beginning if you want. Or just jump in and maybe we can learn some life lessons together. Welcome to the Bonus Round. I'm Steve, The Songwriter.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Jim Sings for Theater Royalty.

Reader, if you're not familiar with theater royalty, then the only way to describe this evening is to imagine that Paul McCartney is being given a big award, and you've been asked to sing "Yesterday" with Paul sitting in the front row next to Steven Spielberg.

That's the position Jim found himself in when he was asked to sing "If I Were A Rich Man" in front of the great lyricist Sheldon Harnick, sitting next to Hal Prince, the great Broadway director and producer. Sheldon was being honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Theater Museum on May 16.

I wasn't even sure I was going to make it, since I had barely just passed that kidney stone the day before. Weak as a kitten and still in pain, there was no way I was going to miss it. And when I found out that I would be escorting our friend, Charlotte Rae, who went to school with Sheldon, I knew I had to go.





Anita Gillette sees Charlotte. I was sitting right next to her.

Great theater actress Tovah Feldshuh.

Jim Brochu with Hal Prince and Broadway star Howard McGillin..

Jim Brochu, Hal Prince, Howard McGillin; Charlotte Rae.

Jim Brochu singing "Rich Man."
I have seen Jim sing "Rich Man" many times. But I was startled and delighted when director Tony Walton opened the show with him. And,  man, did he deliver. It was one of the performances that you don't forget. Not only did he manage to just get through it (with everyone he ever idolized sitting in the front rows), but it was one of the best performances I've ever seen of the song ever.

Every single micro-second of the lyric was fully brought to life. Unexpectedly, I found myself with tears streaming down my face. Not because I was thinking of Jim, but because I was so involved in the many levels of emotions that this song contains -- the dreams of a simple milk man who owns barely enough to survive dreaming of a life of riches and the time to "sit in the synagogue and pray."

It was really stunning. And it perfectly captured the emotional tone of the evening, drawing everyone in.



Hal Prince, Sheldon Harnick and his wife.

Tovah Feldshuh with students from the Frank Sinatra School.








A group of stars singing "Little Tin Box" from FIORELLO!





Hal Prince shares some wonderful stories about Sheldon.


Giving Sheldon his award.





Jim Brochu, Jim Dale, Charlotte Rae.

John Bolton and Charlotte Rae.
It was a great night. I'm so glad I went and so very, very proud of Jim. In many ways, our living in Los Angeles kept Jim "hidden" from the New York of his youth -- and it's thrilling that, with our move back to the east coast, he's becoming an "overnight star" who is more than capable of carrying on the Great Tradition of Broadway.

I always knew he was a star. And now the rest of the theatrical world is discovering it, too.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Recording Rescue.

"I don't want to make a demo," said Peter Link, when we started this project. He's the producer and we're doing it in his studio. "I want to make records."

"Rescue" is a very simple song. Part of its beauty is the sonic quality of the voice against the piano. But it's a sound that you can really only achieve live. When I sing, I tune myself to the instrument and sing according to the vibrations I feel coming from the instrument into my body. In fact, that's always how I sing every song live.

The question is how one achieves this kind of room/body vibration in a recording, where the listener is more likely to be listening to it through tiny ear buds or computer speakers -- and where the piano is dampened in the studio in order to keep it from leaking into the vocal mic.

The answer is that you cannot.

And that's the challenge for Peter and me because a piano/vocal recording just sounds like a demo.

Now, maybe that's enough. It's enough for a lot of folks who like the "Bonus Round Sessions" CD best. Recorded years ago, a mixture of tracks from when I was desperately ill to feeling pretty strong, it consists mainly of songs from TLS, early versions of songs that landed in Big Voice, and a few others. Randy Tobin and I had no budget, so we ran the tape, I got on the piano and we just did it live, for most part, in the studio.

But, except maybe for "Rescue," it ain't that simple. I want to give all these newer songs a chance to breathe on their own. Many, now -- especially selections from New World Waking -- have big choruses and need more instrumentation.

So, we're experimenting, Peter and I. And that's all we can do. Keep  your fingers crossed. What we end up with may not be what you expect. But, song by song, he and I will learn together. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ah, Rosemary!


Today, I finally stood up and cooked something for the first time in forever. Through all this stone passing, I had very little appetite, but was also in too much pain to stand and cook. Also, Jim was doting on me, so I didn't need to cook.

He took off for the Barrington Stage a couple of days ago and I just ate leftovers and soup until I could get some strength back. So, today, I felt stronger and decided to make something. I didn't have a recipe, so I just started throwing things together.

I like garlic, so I mashed a few cloves and sliced them thickly. Threw them in some olive oil until they were crackling a little and toasting. Then I put in four chicken breasts, salt, paprika, pepper, lemon and then let them cook.

That's when I remember I had purchased some fresh rosemary. (I'm getting so bold!) So, remembering how they did it on the cooking shows, I tore off some leaves and started sprinkling.

And oh! The smell was so divine!

After I let the breasts brown, almost done, I tossed in some mushrooms and broccoli, and the covered the pan until the broccoli was bright green.

Squeezed lemon over all of it, and sprinkled some ground Parmesan to give it a little glue.

And oh it was so delicious!

I could tell all day how weak I am by how weak my voice is when I speak. I was also helping a friend with some routine office work, and only lasted a little more than an hour before I was physically exhausted. So, I knew I had to really eat well.

Making this meal, really just off the top of my head, made me feel wonderful. Healthy and delicious, I have a feeling I'm going to feel stronger tomorrow.

The Emergency Has Passed.

I never saw the stone pass, but Sunday night, I woke in the middle of the night feeling the need for a gigantic pee. Stumbled to the bathroom and was in the middle of a very sweet relief when it suddenly dawned on me that I was not hurting.

Until this night, if I woke up at 3am, it was because the narcotics had worn off and I was in so much pain, I couldn't bear to breathe, much less lie there. It was all I could do to swallow more pills and beg God for mercy.

In fact, the night before, I was starting to panic because I knew I only had enough pills to last about a half more day. The prescription was helpful, but far from adequate. How much longer could this go on? What was it? Five days now in absolute torment?

But to suddenly, out of the fog of sleep, standing there in front of the toilet, remember that I had been in pain in what seemed like an eternity, it dawned on me that I was no longer hurting.

I wanted to dance, fly, crash through walls and celebrate!!

I went back to bed, cautiously optimistic.

The next morning, I felt fine for the most part, but there was residual pain in my back. I told myself it was probably soreness from all the trauma of the past five days. So, rather than the narcs, I took a few Motrin PM and laid down for most of the day, after a horrible morning of nausea and dry heaves -- no doubt, by body throwing off the narcotics.

However, that night, Jim was singing at a big event (which I will detail in another post) which I did not want to miss. So, I swallowed and few more Motrin and joined him.

Physically, I was still hurting a bit -- but what a difference between "hurting" and "agony" -- so I took it easy, enjoyed myself, felt so proud of Jim, and was happy I went. But I was tired. So very tired.

Tuesday, the pain was now completely gone. No Motrins. But I was weak. When I held my hand up, it shook like a leaf in the breeze. So, I stayed still and assured Jim that I would be okay, even though he was taking off for Massachusetts to perform Zero Hour for the next three weeks.

This morning, I feel weak, but gaining strength. Jake came over and helped me shop. Since he is our apartment sitter and works nearby, he can look in on me whenever I need something. I also have a ton of other friends who've all volunteered in case I need something.

But to go a full day without pain -- and without pain pills -- is the greatest gift of all.

So, thanks to you, dear reader, for abiding with me during this. I will try to update more often. If you're on Facebook, you'll get more up to the minute news. But, man, what a traumatic, horrible experience this has been. And for a guy who takes a ton of drugs just to stay alive, I HATE pain killers, and I especially HATE narcotics.

Now I can go back to my nice, normal routine of trying to fight off AIDS and getting my blood sugar back to normal.

And writing music! (I have more news about that, too).

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Then Get Active, they say.

My friends are telling me I should be more active, to jostle the stone loose. That makes sense. Even if it hurts. Maybe I can put the pain into a little box and ignore it. 

"I Couldn't Read A Book Or Walk Around."

This lyric from the song Connected is swirling around in my head this morning. I'm trying to take the least amount of pain killer necessary because I don't like these things. But it means I hurt. It also means writing this hurts, so I have to stop. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Night in the ER.

I spent last night trying to pass a kidney stone, but to no avail. It was painful to the extreme, so Jim took me to the ER this morning and I spent the whole morning in agony until they finally gave me morphine.

Now I'm home with new pain killers. Hopefully, this has passed, but I wanted to let you know what happened.

And thanks to all my Facebook friends who tried to stay up with me last night, helping me keep my mind off the pain. I love you.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Health Update

My blood sugars are still too high.

As I mentioned before, I've been put on insulin now and taken off two oral medications. The instructions were, at the beginning, to start with 10 units and increase the dosage by three units every three days until I get to 120 or below.

Now, I'm at 56 units a day and I'm still not down to 120, so I don't know if I'm doing something wrong, if that's a lot of insulin or what. Last week, I peaked at 235. Lately, I've been hovering at around 170 and yesterday, got it down to 150.

So, it feels like I'm kind of headed in the right direction, but it sure is a long haul getting to 120.

Today is the Pet Rescue Benefit.

I could barely sleep last night.

I kept having this dream that I was introducing "Rescue" in the "Love Makes The World Go Round" benefit for Zani's Furry Friends (which happens later today at Birdland). Only, instead of it being there, we were in some tiny hall and I had to hold the microphone in my hand while playing the piano. Then, a bunch of people started singing with me, but they didn't actually know the song, so they were getting it all wrong and everyone in the room was becoming more and more impatient.

I tossed and turned, waking up and going back to sleep, re-entering the same dream. Finally gave up about 5am and got out of bed.

I am excited, though, to sing this song -- and I see that I'm going to be near the end of the line-up, which is great! A plum spot for a song I love.

Speaking of which -- and maybe this is burying the lede -- but I start work on a new album tomorrow with Tony nominee Peter Link producing, and the first song we're going to record is "Rescue."

The plan is to release the songs one at a time, as we finish the mixes. Along with the recordings, we'll make downloads of the sheet music available at Watchfiremusic.com. It's very exciting to finally start this project. I have so many unrecorded songs, I hardly know where to start.